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Tortoise acting different

Posted: 22 Jun 2019, 13:47
by Dc92
Hello, I wonder if anyone can offer me advice on my tortoise Halloumi.

I have a nearly 2 year old Hermanns tortoise. He has been fine and healthy until now and I am starting to worry.

He lives in his tank most of the day because he is too small to be left out in the house and I won’t be able to find him. He used to come out in the morning by himself when I had gone to work (he has his UV/heat lamp at correct temp) and would be out bathing when I got home from work. He would usually eat whatever I had prepared/found for him in the garden. Now, if I leave him in the morning he will not come out of his house and will very happily sleep for days. I have never hibernated him as he is too small and it is summer so shouldn’t want to hibernate. He won’t eat a variety of food and will just eat pellets and water (also food which is bad for him such as tomatoes and peas). He loved any kind of salad and now won’t eat even this. When I put him outside he is trying to eat rocks, decomposing leaves and dirt and there is plenty of weeds for him to eat. I don’t put calcium on his food but there is a block in his bed which I’ve seen him eat.

I bath him regularly and he is very tame so is not scared of me. His main aspects of behavioural change is not really eating and sleeping an awful lot. He will move around if Put outside. I know baby tortoise sleep a lot to avoid predators but he sleeps too much. Any suggestions on what’s wrong with him/why he may be acting different? Sorry it is quite long. Thank you to anyone that offers any advice.

Re: Tortoise acting different

Posted: 22 Jun 2019, 16:45
by Nina
Hi DC92 (sorry I don't know your name), and welcome to The Tortoise Table.

There could be a variety of reasons why Halloumi (great name by the way) has got lethargic. You mention that he is in a tank -- is this a glass and wood enclosed vivarium type of set-up or is it an open-topped tortoise table?
You say that the heat lamp etc. is at the correct temperature, but could you tell us where you are measuring that temperature? A thermometer mounted on a wall a few inches away from the lamp will give a very misleading reading, and you need to measure the temp directly below the lamp and at the height of Halloumi's shell. Also, if it is a warm day and the room he is in is warm then you might have to raise the lamp so that it doesn't get too hot, and if it's a cold day then you might have to lower it. The reason i've gone on about this is that temperature has a direct effect on a tortoise's behaviour and appetite (too hot and they get lethargic, and the same if it is too cold).
Could you possibly send us a photo of your set-up, as it might only need a bit of tweaking to get it spot on?

There are other causes of lethargy, like worms, etc., but it's best first to eliminate the most common causes.

Regarding his diet. The pellets aren't that great for him, as most of them are too high in protein. Tortoises need high fibre/low protein diets, and loving 'naughty' food (like tomatoes and peas) is very common. It's a bit like giving lots of chocolate to a young baby -- they will love it but it's not actually very good for them. And when tortoises get fed food like that then they tend to reject good food. Especially as he is young, you should really try to get him on a healthier diet so that he doesn't develop shell deformities from the wrong diet. This is such a common problem that we have an article that is specifically about changing to a better diet, and you can read it here: ... Q5MW497m9s But of course first you need to get him eating again, and I hope that we will be able to help you.

It is really good that you are bathing him regularly, as tortoises can go a long time without food but can get dehydrated quickly, so do keep up the baths.

Looking forward to seeing photos of your set-up.


Re: Tortoise acting different

Posted: 05 Jul 2019, 23:33
by Dc92
Hi Nina,

Thanks for getting back and sorry for not replying!

I have my tortoise in a big open topped tank with plenty of ventilation. I have a bulb clipped onto this which is one of those everything-in-one bulbs (heat, UVA’s, infra etc). This sits around 30c or 32, the thermometer sits under the lamp and reads the temp. I feed him a very varied diet and bath daily. I use powders on his food.

SO, I took him to a non-reptile vets and they concluded he had worms. I wormed him and he didn’t change. I took him to a reptile vets and turns out he has a lovely rock eating and mud addiction.

My new question is: I use soil sand substrate which I am worried he is eating. Do you have any suggestions of other substrate I can use?

Thank you !!!

Re: Tortoise acting different

Posted: 06 Jul 2019, 10:51
by lin
Hi Dc92. Nina is entertaining family today so isnt around but I am sure she will pop in given the chance.

Regarding other substrates. I doubt the substrate is doing any harm providing the sand is the childrend playsand but if you do feel you would like to change then a lot of people are now using the coco coir bricks or bags that can be poistened with water but like the sand soil substrate it needs to be kept slightly moist to keep the dust down.
I found using bigger pebles that are unable to fit in the mouth less worrying for me so maybe give that a go too and see how he goes with those changes.


Re: Tortoise acting different

Posted: 06 Jul 2019, 12:11
by Dc92
Hi Lin,

Thanks for getting back to me. I was in the pet store when you replied buying rabbit supplies and looked at the coconut alternative you suggested. I have bought this. I am going to wait until the stones pass and then will get him back on normal substrate. I’m just worried.

I will try as you say. I know the substrate he is in is best for him so will move back in the future.

Thank you for your suggestion! Fingers crossed he likes it.


Re: Tortoise acting different

Posted: 06 Jul 2019, 13:14
by lin
He will probably love it Devon. Most do but we do prefer the more natural here and have never found it to be a problem. See how the coir goes and because its lighter you may decide to stick with it.